Jules (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Marc Turtletaub, written by Gavin Steckler and starring Ben Kingsley, Harriet Sansom Harris, Jane Curtin, Zoe Winters, Anna George, Jade Quon, Aubie Merrylees, Joshua Moore, Teddy Canez, Narea Kang, Edward James Hyland, Blair Baker, John Skelley, Christopher Kelly, Andy Daly, Eric T. Miller, Cody Kostro and Marina Shay.
Ben Kingsley plays an aging man who befriends an alien in director Marc Turtletaub’s interesting, but too short, new comedic drama, Jules. Kingsley is one of the great character actors of his generation even though he has played some wonderful leading roles throughout his career. His ability to inhabit his characters with emotion and sincerity has never been a problem before and he, again, creates a sensitive, relatable leading character in this new science fiction movie.
Jules is at its best when it pays homage to all things pop culture from the past. A Spuds MacKenzie T-shirt that the alien wears is coupled with the fact that the alien needs dead cats to fuel his spaceship (a scenario obviously inspired by “ALF” from the 1980’s) to bring back memories of the past that may be welcome for aging moviegoers. The most inspired thing about the supporting cast is the presence of Jane Curtin who played an alien herself in Coneheads from the early 1990’s.
At its heart, Jules works best when it deals with the routines that shape Kingsley’s character, Milton Robinson’s life. Milton goes to argue for certain things to change in his small town, but things tend to remain the same despite his efforts. When the alien crash lands in Milton’s backyard, Milton shares the news with a supermarket clerk (Aubie Merrylees) who tells Milton’s daughter, Denise (Zoe Winters). She is admittedly concerned about her dad’s well-being. Nobody believes there is a real alien.
Harriet Sansom Harris is given the film’s most sensitive role as a woman named Sandy who befriends Milton and the alien that has come to live in Milton’s house. Sandy shows the quiet alien (named — you guessed it– Jules) a picture of her daughter and the daughter’s female companion. Sandy also bonds with Jules through other interactions as well. She dresses the alien in a T-shirt with a lesbian joke on it until Curtin’s character, Joyce, redresses the alien in the “more appropriate” Spuds MacKenzie (the Bud Light beer dog) T-shirt.
Zoe Winters and Kingsley share some powerful scenes throughout this movie. When they argue at the office of Dr. North (well played by Anna George), there is some real conflict between the father and daughter characters. Milton thinks he will be OK but Denise, his daughter, worries about him. A lot. Milton and his son are estranged though Milton is apologetic for whatever happened between them that caused them to drift apart.
Sandy gets robbed and attacked by a thief she unknowingly invites into her home and Jules saves her life from a distance, helping seal the bond that Sandy and the alien have formed. Soon, authoritative figures start following Jules and Joyce around and when they go looking for dead cats to feed Jules, we can foresee that the friendship formed between Jules, Joyce and Sandy will not be able to last forever.
This movie is directed with earnest sincerity. Kingsley does a remarkable job conveying his character’s transformation throughout the movie which may ultimately end with him going aboard the spaceship with Jules and leaving earth behind for the remainder of his twilight years. Kingsley, Curtin and Harris maintain some nice interactions between their characters throughout. It’s a pleasure to see older characters on-screen reminding us that although age is just a number, we all have time restrictions which will make us want to embrace life for all its beauty before we leave earth.
There are a few problems here. Jules is not the most well-conceived alien ever to grace the silver screen. Quite the opposite. Although the alien has a lot of warmth, there weren’t enough distinct personality traits given to Jules. Also, some of the scenes are an odd mixture of heavy and light topics that don’t always mesh well together.
With that being said, Ben Kingsley is always a pleasure to watch and Jules has a lot of good things going for it. Although the scenes between Kingsley and Winters are touching, there could have been more sequences with the daughter to make her just as central to the action as the Curtin and Harris characters. Still, Jules is a touching example of a small movie that just happens to have a big heart and a lot to say about the human condition and getting older. I liked it despite its flaws.
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